Ways to Manage Kidney Cancer

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When you first receive a kidney cancer diagnosis, you may be overwhelmed with emotions, questions and concerns. Although it is completely normal to feel fear and anxiety, you can take charge of what happens next. By learning how to manage your kidney cancer and cope with any side effects it may bring, you can feel back in control of your day-to-day life. The more prepared you are to handle what happens after your diagnosis, the more you’ll be able to face those challenges head on.

Coping With Kidney Cancer Treatment Side Effects

Living with kidney cancer can be a difficult journey. Depending on the treatment option you choose, you may have any number of side effects. But there are lots of ways to manage these issues.

Fatigue: Fatigue is a common symptom of kidney cancer treatments, and it’s more than just feeling tired. Fatigue is extreme exhaustion that may last a long time and doesn’t get better even when you rest. If you frequently feel exhausted, try to find an exercise plan that works for you. Research has shown that exercise can reduce fatigue, so talk to your doctor about a routine that’s appropriate for your lifestyle and general health. And rest when you need to so you don’t overexert yourself.

Nausea: Multiple treatments can cause you to feel sick to your stomach, but there are ways to manage it. Your doctor can prescribe an anti-nausea medicine to tackle the problem. You can also try non-medicinal ways to handle the issue. Try eating small meals every few hours rather than larger meals three times a day. Salty drinks or snacks may also help settle your stomach. Relaxation techniques may help some people with nausea as well.

Pain: Although pain can be related to kidney cancer treatments, it might also stem from the cancer itself. To manage it, you may need help from your doctor, so communicate exactly what kind of pain you feel, where and how much it hurts, and whether anything you do seems to make it better or worse. With this information, your doctor can offer appropriate pain relief options. For non-medicinal pain management, you can also try relaxation techniques.

Postoperative: After an operation to remove all or part of the kidney, called a nephrectomy, you will likely need pain medication. If your doctor recommends it, get some gentle exercise to improve your circulation, to help you breathe better, and to reduce the risk for blood clots in your legs.  For other possible side effects of surgery, such as infection or excessive bleeding, you will need a doctor’s help to manage the problem.

Life After Kidney Removal

Surgery is usually the first choice for treatment of kidney cancer. The doctor may remove your whole kidney—a radical nephrectomy—or just some of it—a partial nephrectomy. Once you recover from surgery the absent kidney will have no effect on normal urine production. If you’ve had surgery to treat your kidney cancer, you will need to follow up with your doctor regularly to make sure the cancer has not returned.

About three to six months after the surgery, you may need to have a CT scan to check for any local or distant recurrence of kidney cancer. For the first two years, your doctor may recommend making a follow-up appointment every six months. After that, yearly appointments may be appropriate if you aren’t at a higher risk for recurring cancer, such as if the cancer spread to your lymph nodes.

Managing Your Emotional Needs

Kidney cancer can sometimes make you feel alone, so it’s important to have people to lean on if you’re feeling down. Try to find a strong support system, whether that’s your family and friends, a spiritual counselor, or a cancer support group.

Exercise can help with your emotional well-being and help you manage physical side effects. Exercise has been associated with a lower risk of anxiety and depression, and often helps you feel better about yourself. Finding ways to relieve tension and feel good are big boosts to emotional health.

Although it’s normal to be scared, keep in mind that kidney cancer prognosis and survival rates get better over time, as research and treatments continue to improve. Studies have shown that optimistic people have a higher rate of survival than pessimistic people. So keep your hopes up while you confront your kidney cancer—you’ll improve your emotional well-being as well as your overall health.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2021 Apr 9
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

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